The BBC is currently running a series of Panorama documentaries based on an observation by Norman Kirk, a former New Zealand Prime Minister. People, he said, don’t want much. They want: “Someone to love, somewhere to live, somewhere to work and something to hope for.”
The same observation could be applied to young people in general and to our members in particular. It would not be too much of a generalisation to say that by and large young people want friendship, a place to spend their time, a purpose in life and something to look forward to. Our ability to fulfil those needs will have a direct impact on the success of Scouting.
We know as children develop into young adults they need the support of their peers as they find out more about the world and gain the confidence to leave the security of their home and family. Some find it a lot easier than others but the knowledge that they have some friends alongside them is an enormous encouragement when trying new things and going to new places. Lodges, Sixes and Patrols are ready made friendship groups in which children can form lasting relationships. We need to remember that such groupings are not just a convenient means of dividing up the section but are critical to the young person’s identity and status within the section and the security they enjoy as a member of the Colony, Pack or Troop. I have never forgotten the resentment I felt when after four years in primary school my form teacher decided to reorganise the class and moved me from Cowdray House to Petworth House: I never forgave him!
Young people need a place to be, where they can mix with their friends, feel they belong and to be warm, dry and safe. One of the Movement’s “underpinning strategies” is to “support Scouting to find, develop and maintain great physical spaces so we can develop and grow”. We need to make the most of what we already have but also to create and identify new places for young people “to meet and go”. I have recently had a conversation with a Group Scout Leader who could open a new Beaver Colony tomorrow if only he could find somewhere suitable to meet. Groups meet in a variety of different venues ranging from their own headquarters to church, and village halls, schools and community centres. The former are however increasingly costly to heat, light and maintain while the latter are often fully booked especially at the times when we wish to use them. The Guides have recently started Rainbow Units on Saturdays. This may be worth considering for Beavers, especially when an increasing number of willing adults seem to have difficulty in attending early evening meetings.
We all need a purpose in life and young people are no different. They need to be doing interesting and exciting things, some for the first time and others on more than one occasion as they improve their skills and experience. Something that is different to the routine of the school timetable. This is why our Scouting programmes need to be of the highest quality. Another of our underpinning strategies says “we believe all young people should enjoy an inspiring and engaging programme that meets the educational principles of Scouting”. This is crucial to ensuring that our members, of all ages, really look forward to their Pack or Troop meeting and when choices have to be made, choose Scouting in preference to other hobbies and activities. We really need to make sure therefore that programmes are varied, structured, youth-shaped and imaginative. Do you discuss your section’s programme with the members themselves? Do you involve the whole team (including the Young Leaders) in planning each term’s programmes? While it may be more time consuming, it’s often much more fun and productive than struggling away on your own.
What do young people hope for? What do they look forward to? Children and young people will answer this question on a number of levels. Many will aspire to a career or professional qualifications. Others may want to travel and explore the world. But they will also have shorter term goals, to achieve a particular award, to attend a camp or take part in an expedition. Just at the moment a good number will be looking forward to taking part in next month’s Gloucester Gang Show. Scouting is great at setting targets and helping youngsters achieve them – sometimes over weeks and sometimes over a number of years. Our award scheme is good at that. But it also means we as leaders need to plan ahead. I hope that most Cubs, Scouts and Explorers are now looking forward to a summer camp or expedition. Leaders need to be planning such events now if the young people are going to get really excited about the forthcoming events and their interest is to be sustained over the coming months. Scouting needs to appeal not just to a young person’s immediate concerns but also to their wider ambitions and give them something to aim for and give them something positive to hang on to when life’s obstacles and difficulties seem to get in the way.
So what do young people want? Dare I say, they would on this analysis, appear to want Scouting, – not just Scouting but good Scouting – with their friends, in a place they can call their own, doing enjoyable tasks with ambitious goals in view. Scouting can meet all these needs – with your care and hard work, it most certainly will.
On Saturday 21 February, UK Youth Commissioner, Hannah Kentish, came to Cranham. This is what she put on her blog:
Visiting Gloucestershire was incredibly exciting for me; it was the first time I had the chance to deliver what I’m coining as a ‘Bite-size YouShape’. During this, we tackled questions around barriers, successes and future ideas to promote young people having their voices heard on a District and County level.
Some really great ideas came out of the session – it was such an inspired and motivated group. The most exciting thing was the desire for a better process to ensure youth representatives at District/County committee meetings can fairly and accurately voice the opinions and ideas of the other young people in their area.
The group I chatted with decided to start a youth forum on a County level with the support from their County team, ensuring there is a place for youth members to discuss their thoughts and concerns in an environment where they will be supported and encouraged by adult volunteers. They hope for this to also be rolled out on a District level, to give even more young people in Gloucestershire the chance to have their voices heard – fantastic!
It’s 22nd February, Founder’s Day, and the Scouting year is getting off to a busy start. Yesterday we welcomed Hannah Kentish, UK Youth Commissioner, to Cranham to meet some Explorers and Network Members to discuss how all young members can get their ideas across and shape the future of Scouting in Gloucestershire. And, today we have had the County Scout Cooking Competition at Shurdington’s Group HQ. Although only four Districts were represented, the teams worked really hard and presented some fantastic meals for the judges to sample. Have a look at the photos on Shurdington’s website. Congratulations to 15th Gloucester (St Peter’s) who will go through to next month’s regional final together with 1st Hatherley as runners-up. A special mention also to 1st Swindon Village who took third place and Deer Park Kemble who won the best dessert.
Next weekend I am driving a minibus to London for 1st Upton St Leonards Cubs which is usually a great trip. It’s wonderful to see the Cubs’ reactions when, often for the first time, they see landmarks like Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square, which they have previously only seen on TV. They will talk about it for weeks to come.
We know that none of these activities can take place without teams of skilled and dedicated people to make them happen. However, we are finding more and more vacancies in roles across the county, especially in those “managerial” roles like GSL and DC. They may not be everyone’s first choice for a spare time activity but they are increasingly necessary and often very rewarding. Also, at County level we now have a number of roles that need filling, particularly around adult training where we have relied increasingly on the County Training Manager, Adrian Austin, to keep things operating. However, Adrian himself has now been offered a role with the Scouts Wales national team which has meant he will be standing down from his Gloucestershire roles in the next couple of months. It is therefore all the more vital that we fill these roles or the important work of delivering and assessing adult training will come to a complete stop.
Therefore if you think you could do with a change and fancy taking on a new role I would be delighted to hear from you. Over the next four weeks, I will be trying to speak to as many people as possible to gauge their hopes and interests leading up to a drop-in session at Cranham on Saturday 14 March between 10.30am and 3pm. If that’s not convenient for you, please drop me a line (firstname.lastname@example.org) telling me what you think or suggesting a time to discuss your ideas.
I appreciate that ideally we would all like to be asked personally to consider taking on a new role. Unfortunately across a county like ours that is not possible so please don’t be shy. If you are interested in developing your skills and experiences through Scouting please contact me. Do not worry about expressing an interest in a job that someone else is already doing. They may just be waiting for you to come along before stepping down or would welcome someone to work alongside them and share the load. You may think you cannot move on because no-one would come forward to run your Scout Troop or Cub Pack. Sometimes we don’t know until we create the vacancy.
I look forward to hearing from lots of leaders who are experienced and enthusiastic about their Scouting but would like a new challenge and the chance to try out some of their own ideas. Please get in touch, in confidence, to discuss your ideas. Who knows where it might lead!
Zacary Evans, the young man who was killed in a machete attack in Gloucester, was a Scout at 41st Gloucester, St George’s Scout Group and was proud to be in the organisation. He had been a Beaver and a Cub and, more recently had wanted to become a leader at the Group.
He conducted his life with honour and pride.He made it his duty to see bullying wasn’t affecting all around. His bravery resulted in him losing his life, protecting his friends. Please say a prayer or hold a minute’s clapping in memory of this brave, young man.
In late 2013 Rodborough Scouts members decided they would like to challenge themselves to complete the Cotswold Way in 2014 by doing day hikes.
On 16th January 2014 we started at Chipping Camden in bright sunshine– with one young leader, 3 scouts, 1 beaver, 2 leaders, 1 sectional assistant, 1 parent and a dog. Through the year we did 11 walks with two in August done as overnight expeditions involving the original group plus another 7 scouts, 1 young leader, 4 parents, 1 sibling and another dog.
We finished at Bath Abbey with all the originally group, plus some extras on a festive 30th November with carol singers and a band and then went for a group meal to celebrate and to thank our main car driver and supporter Andrea.
In all 10 people completed the whole length of the Cotswold Way, including a Beaver scout who had just turned 8 years old. Along the way scouts learnt route planning, map reading, camping and expedition skills, got very muddy on one particularly walk in to Broadway, were harassed by cows on several occasions and enjoyed great views over the countryside especially from the Tyndale monument.
Once again, I hope you will have read the annual report or if not you will take the time to read it when you get home. I would especially like to thank all those who have contributed to this year’s report either through providing text or photographs.
Joan has already referred to the work undertaken on the administrative side over the last year and I would like to record my thanks to her, to Louise our Administrator and the members of the county executive committee and sub-committees for their work as we have sought to ensure that Gloucestershire Scouting is conducted on the soundest possible footing both financially and organisationally.
One of my principal tasks is to appoint and support our team of District Commissioners. I have this year been sorry to say good bye to Barry Smith in Gloucester, Tony Clarke in Tewkesbury, Peter Grierson in Cotswold and Paula Pitcher in Stroud & Tetbury who have all stood down over recent months for a variety of reasons. I should like to thank all of them for their service to their Districts and the County. Various people across the county have been busily helping us identify some likely candidates for these demanding roles over the summer and I am pleased to welcome Bruce Warden to the role in Gloucester and I will shortly have an announcement to make in respect of Tewkesbury. We have a plan for Stroud & Tetbury which I am still working on which only leaves Cotswold without. If anyone knows of anyone who might conceivably be willing or able to have a go at the role even if they don’t actually live in the Cirencester or Fairford area, please let me know. It’s a lovely District but they are missing some leadership at the moment.
DCs also need District Teams of Deputy and Assistant Commissioners and District Scouters not merely to run the district programme of activities and events but to support and encourage leaders in their Groups and their respective DCs. We need to strengthen these teams over the coming year if we are to see real progress across the county.
On the subject of progress I am pleased to report that Scouting in Gloucestershire continues to grow in numbers with an increase of just under 2% in our total membership over the last year. And if you take a slightly longer perspective the figures are even more impressive. Over the last 10 years our total membership has grown by 41% from 4,676 to 6,612 in 2014– that’s 1,939 more people in Scouting in Gloucestershire than there were in 2004 or to put it another way since 2004 we have added 24 Beaver Colonies, 8 Cub Packs and 14 Scout Troops across the county. However, according to our census, we still have 552 young people who are old enough to join Scouting but can’t because there aren’t the places for them particularly in Beavers and Cubs. Think what that would do for your District if you had all those extra young people within your Groups. To do that of course, you may need extra leaders or different places to meet or maybe we should be looking at different ways of offering Scouting, at weekends or after school and that has got to be our focus.
And that is why the new National Strategy “Scouting for All” and our own plan “The Gloucestershire Way” are so important. The national strategy is the next stage in turning our Vision for 2018 into reality. The vision came out of widespread consultation with the Movement four or five years ago and has been the subject of ongoing debate and refinement. The national strategy, which was published in April this year, contains quite a bit of detail but cleverly focusses on just four Strategic Objectives entitled – Growth, Inclusivity, Youth Shaped and Community Impact which are reflected in the four strategies within the county plan of Raising our Profile, Leadership and Citizenship, Growth and Maximising the use of our Resources.
So let’s return for a moment to the national Objectives. Our Growth challenge is to increase our national membership from the current figures of 434,000 youth members and 130,000 adult volunteers to half a million young people and 150,000 adults leading, guiding and supporting them. If Gloucestershire were to increase by the same proportions that would mean us adding 774 to our current total of under 18s by 2018 and an extra 178 adults. That would require an increase of 14% over the four years or very crudely 3.5% a year. That’s not impossible – between 2008 and 2010 we added more than 6% a year to our youth totals. But it won’t happen by itself. It will require specific effort, new initiatives and an equal focus on retaining our existing members if we are to achieve such a target.
The Inclusivity Challenge requires us to look for opportunities to offer Scouting in places where it no longer exists or it has never existed. In city and town centres and on new estates. We are told that Scouting has one of the highest figures for “brand recognition” in the country but more than 50% of people do not see Scouting as relevant to them or the modern world and one of the reasons for that is that we do not reflect the communities in which we live and operate. This is a real challenge but it is essential to our survival as a “youth” organisation because young people are the first to be turned off by something that is considered old fashioned or “un-cool”.
For the same reason, we really need to get to grips with being “youth shaped”: that is training, equipping and allowing young people to have a real say in the direction of their Scout experience. We have been promoting “youth involvement” for some time and Chris Brewster and Liz Hodge have been leading sessions for Groups and Districts on how we might do this better. It has been very encouraging to see more young people being brought onto District Executive Committees. But that is only the beginning. A youth shaped organisation is not one in which young people are forced to conform to the existing structures and procedures of that body. A youth shaped organisation is one that actually works with its younger members to create a structure in which they can fully participate on their own terms – on that is more informal – more spontaneous – more dynamic. We also need to train our young people to take on such roles. When we discuss the issue of youth involvement with many of our longer-serving leaders they will refer back to the old Patrol Leaders’ Councils and their District and County equivalents, to Unit Executive Committees in the Venture Scout and now Explorer Scout section. Perhaps it was right to lose the formality that surrounded these bodies but they did provide valuable training for youngsters in making their voices heard, planning events and recording decisions and generally raised an expectation that they would be consulted and involved in the running of their Scouting and I want to see some real progress in this regard during the coming year.
Community Impact is a tricky one. As it says in “Scouting for All” – “Since the Movement began, Scouts have promised to help other people”. I can remember in 1982, the 75th Anniversary of Scouting, branded as “The Year of the Scout”, those of you who had cars, had car stickers that simply said “Scouts help others”. That slogan perfectly summed up for many of us what Scouting was all about and those car stickers were around for many years after that. So, we have always undertaken tasks and projects for the benefit of the community. I know, where I live the local Scout Group delivers the parish magazine for the local council. My wife’s Group is a strong supporter of the bi-annual village shows. These are activities that help build up the communities in which we operate. We need to be prouder of what we do, first by recording what Groups do, then by publicising it and then look for new ways to develop and supplement what has always been done and use these opportunities to supplement and enhance your own programmes. The Poppy Badge is a great example of this. Many Groups have regularly paraded their flags on Remembrance Sunday. This year, in conjunction with the Royal British Legion, we have developed a whole programme around the theme of Remembrance to encourage members to find out about the impact of war and other conflicts on their community and Scouting, to share that knowledge with the community, to invite servicemen and women into their meetings and raise some money for the Legion or other service charities. Through such programmes I believe Scouting can have a real impact on its community. And it is all part of this business of making us more relevant to the wider community – answering the question of “What is Scouting for?”
So, what about the year ahead? What does that have in store for us? At least we won’t have to worry about separating from Scotland now, although I see Joan has taken the case for the English Regions to her heart, at least within Scouting.
We know we are going to seem some significant changes to the 6-18 youth programme. All sorts of ideas have been discussed but we have yet to see the final outcomes but it is sure to mean quite a bit of work for the ACCs and ADCs when it is finally published. Please be ready for that. And I am told there are changes in the pipeline for the Scout Network too, although not in the next 12 months.
We are also looking forward to the new, if somewhat delayed, membership database, Compass, going live. The latest is that the switch on process will begin next Monday although it will be some time before it becomes available to everyone. Please keep an eye on your emails and all other methods of communication for details of how to access the system and the training that is going to be on offer around the county and my thanks to Adrian Austin our County Compass Champion, Steve Powell our Compass trainer and all the Compass Champions across the Districts for sticking with us on this – your work is almost done.
As I have already mentioned, will have a raft of new District Commissioners picking up the reins which will inevitably lead to all sorts of changes, possibly on a scale we have not seen for some time. Whenever a DC is appointed these days they have to undergo a very comprehensive induction process which includes the creation of their own development plan. This can only lead to more debate and consultation and more action for positive change, incorporating many of the objectives from the National Strategy and the County Plan, which will have a direct impact on the front-line.
We look forward to what I have been calling “son of Sun Run” but is now officially called “Strategy and Evolution” – two events in June next year about which we will be hearing more later. Yet another example of little old Gloucestershire punching well above its weight.
We will be delivering some new training for District and Group Executive Committee members, the trustees of Scouting locally. We know while that some Groups have excellent committees, others really do not appreciate what they have taken on. We want to put that right and will be holding our first session in the north of the county next month which we hope to repeat at a venue near you during the coming year.
And finally we need to start planning seriously for how we are going to celebrate the Cub Centenary year in 2016. The Guides have done a great job this year in marking their Brownie Birthday. We would do well to pick their brains on how to capitalise on this opportunity. We are already planning a Centenary Cub Camp up in the Cotswolds but we want to see lots of other centenary activities and events happening throughout the year too and lots of positive publicity as a result.
And alongside all of this we will have the day to day, week to week, steady state programme of meetings, events, camps, training courses and reviews which we must not take for granted. All require people like you to give up your time and energy purely for the satisfaction of a “job well done”.
A couple of Saturdays ago saw the “Last Night of the Proms” when towards the end of the concert the concert the conductor, Sakari Oramo, gave a speech in which among other things he explained how an education in music incorporated almost every other subject on the curriculum from Art to PE. And listening to that speech prompted me to think the same of Scouting and the training it provides. We should not therefore be afraid to remind the wider community that Scouting is not just about playing games and messing about in tents. Scouting is so many things: it is Geography, it is History, it is Maths, it is Languages, it is Science, it is Computing, it is Engineering, it is Art, it is Sport, it is Music, it is Citizenship, it is Communication, it is Team work, it is Leadership, it is achieving personal challenges and it is learning for life. All this and more we do for 5,500 young people in 304 sections, in 90 locations, all across Gloucestershire, week in, week out and you deserve to be congratulated for that.
In conclusion, I should like to thank you, my colleagues in the county team for all their encouragement and enthusiasm during the last year, to the county executive for their support and guidance, and to the DCs and your teams for all you do in your various areas of responsibility.
I am concerned that a significant number of section leaders appear not to have heard about the special Poppy Badge that Gloucestershire has arranged in conjunction with the Royal British Legion for young people (and adults) to work towards in time for the Remembrance season in November. Details were circulated back in May but some people still do not appear to have received them. I will be arranging for a message to be circulated via MailChimp but in the meantime please find the details attached here.
Scouting numbers have increased in Gloucestershire with more girls, boys and adults seeking out everyday adventure. The total number of young people and adults who have joined Scouting has risen 1.4 per cent in the past year and membership figures have now reached 6,612. Scouting continues to grow across the UK where there have been nine years of sustained growth.
Scouting provides an attractive adventure based programme for young people and adults, which changes their lives and their local communities for the better.
Record numbers of girls continue to join Scouting across Gloucestershire. A surge of female Scouts have joined, an increase of nine per cent on last year, who have signed up to the adventure based challenges of Scouting.
The increase in membership numbers locally reflects the latest census figures nationally which have just been published. This data provides evidence of sustained growth across the UK for the ninth consecutive year with a membership total of over 550,000. This has cemented Scouting as the largest co-educational youth Movement in the country.
The Scout Association, which seeks to transform the lives of young people by providing an inspiring programme of everyday adventure has confirmed its commitment to further increase the number of young members. It is launching a plan to recruit a further 58,000 more young people, as well as 18,000 more adult volunteers, by 2018. Over 200 activities, including adventure glider flights, skiing, rock climbing and water zorbing, are offered by Scouting around the UK, so it’s no surprise that more and more young people are joining the Movement.
Chief Scout Bear Grylls said:
“I am super proud to see so many young people and adults learning new life skills, achieving personal rewards through Scouting in Gloucestershire. I am excited to see Scout numbers continue to rise across the UK and the big reasons for this are that more and more young people are realising that Scouting can give them so much – whether it’s the opportunity to be involved with some incredible adventures, learn practical life, outdoor and teamwork skills, or helping to improve their local communities. People don’t want to miss out and Scouting brings them all together, empowers them and allows them to make a positive impact.”
I have been asked a number of questions by some people concerning the process we have decided to adopt to select participants from Gloucestershire for the 2015 World Scout Jamboree. The following are a selection of the questions raised and the answers given. I hope this will help everyone understand our thinking on this issue.
Q: Why are there only 18 places from Gloucestershire if 70+ are keen and interested?
A: The national contingent for the 23rd World Scout Jamboree will be considerably smaller than those which were sent to the last two world jamborees. Consequently Gloucestershire was only offered places for three patrols (27 people) which would have meant our participants having to train and attend with a single patrol either from another county, the Guides or from overseas. It was felt that this would have created an unbalanced unit and would have made it logistically difficult to plan and work together. In view of the current economic climate and the difficulty which leaders and young people were currently finding in fundraising for this sort of event, DCs decided to opt for two patrols (18 people) who could form a unit with two patrols from Avon County. This has given us a more balanced unit and the practical convenience and shared identity of working with a neighbouring county.
Q: Why are participants being selected by ballot rather than the traditional selection event?
A: The DCs, the County Leadership Team and I felt that a selection event was not a valid means of selecting so few participants from such a large potential pool of young people wishing to attend. There are no criteria laid down by Gilwell for this event other than the age range. If we were to select the young people we would have to have our own criteria. Some people have asked how we will ensure that the “best” young people attend if selection is by ballot but no-one has suggested how we judge who “the best” are. Any selection will necessarily be subjective and open to allegations of conscious or sub-conscious prejudice or bias. Attendance at a jamboree is not a prize for which young people should compete like a place in the first XI, the lead role in a school play or a place at university. Every Scout should have the same chance to attend, if they want to. A ballot is the fairest way of ensuring all Scouts have an equal chance of attending this important event whatever their particular skills and previous experience may be.
Q: A selection event provides an opportunity for a large group of older Scouts to meet and enjoy a weekend of activities together. Even for those not selected it is a very worthwhile event. Why are they being denied this opportunity?
A: Scouting already offers many occasions during the year when Scouts and Explorers can come together to undertake new activities and have fun together. If leaders would like the County to organise a Scouting Skills competition for these age groups I am sure the relevant ACCs would be happy to consider it.
Q: If selection is by ballot this could mean that the unit would not have a balanced spread of ages, gender or district representation.
A: This is a risk which is why we have sought to encourage as large a group of young people as possible to apply. However, this was always a possibility so long as selection took place at county level rather than in districts, something this county decided against a number of years ago. Such considerations also contradict any intention to select “the best” when the choice has to be influenced by such issues as the gender balance and the age range of participants.
Q: The Jamboree will be physically and emotionally demanding but the ballot process doesn’t give scope for the young people to have reflected on the expectations or feel confident that they can embrace this experience. Nor does it give any experience of the team work and personal committment involved in the fundraising for the 12 months leading up to the Jamboree.
A: All applicants are required to discuss their application with their section leader and DC. In particular DCs are asked to ensure that all applicants are aware of what they are letting themselves in for and understand the demands of the expedition and the commitment required.
Q: When will the ballot take place? Who will do it? Will it be in private?
A: The ballot will take place at the DCs’ meeting on 23 January 2014 at Cranham when 18 participants and 4 reserves will be selected.
Q: The ballot system will ensure only 18 young people from the County will experience the ‘preparation for and experience of Japan’ while the majority (i.e. the remaining names in the ballot) are offered nothing except a ‘rejection letter’ on their doorstep.
A: This would have been the same whatever selection process was adopted. If sufficient people are interested (including leaders) I am happy to consider organising a county expedition to an international event in 2015 for all those who were not selected (and anyone else who would like to take part).
I have decided to adopt a selection process that will give everyone an equal chance of attending whatever their skills and experience may be in the expectation that Scouting will work its magic and offer all those attending, including the less ambitious and outgoing youngsters, the chance to develop in a way that they would not otherwise have. I know it’s risky but we don’t achieve anything without taking risks. I hope this helps to explain the process and the reasons for choosing it and that you will support it by encouraging as many eligible Scouts and Explorer Scouts to apply as possible.